Experience Marketing

Wagon Wheels (Reliving The Lunchbox Experience)

My parents were of European heritage so food was important to us. As a child attending public school in suburban Ottawa, my brothers and I rarely ate in the school cafeteria. Instead, my parents would make us lunches that we would schlep to school regardless of weather conditions (this included months of sub-zero temps as Ottawa was second coldest to Moscow).

In my early school days, I remember that plastic lunchboxes were all the rage. Not just any lunchbox, but the coloured “Thermos” ones that often came with pictures of your favourite superheroes or TV show characters. The lunchboxes would come with a good size Thermos container (attached with a clip) that would provide needed warmth with soup or hot chocolate on those endless bitterly cold winter days.

Included in my lunch would always be a sandwich – usually salami, cheese or peanut butter – to give us extra protein. Back then, our lunchboxes weren’t refrigerated at school so it’s amazing none of us came down with food poisoning. I still remember my parents buying those monster size salamis which sometimes looked like small baseball bats. Being a daughter of parents of European heritage, dessert was always a much anticipated treat to find in my lunchbox. If we were lucky, our lunches would also include a small size DelMonte pudding cup (usually chocolate). The cups came with sharp, pull off lids so you had to be careful they didn’t slice your fingers as you rushed to pull them off.

But the item that stands out the most as having the most impact on my day was when I saw a Wagon Wheel in my lunch. These tasty treats (resembling a Joe Louis by Vachon for those of you who grew up near Quebec) consisted of a generous portion of marshmallow sandwiched between two chocolate covered soft biscuits.

As a kid, I knew it would be a good afternoon if my lunch included a Wagon Wheel.

Today, the product hasn’t changed much except that with most consumer products, the size seems to have shrunken a bit. What’s funny is that I still occasionally buy it for a treat. The brand has the incredible ability to take me back to the carefree days of my childhood when a simple treat in my lunchbox was able to make my day.

Eating a Wagon Wheel makes me experience my childhood all over again as in spite of its seemingly smaller size, not much has changed with the product. The taste is still unique and I sense I am that same kid all over again.

What is it about some brands that make them so timeless?

I looked at the new packaging for Wagon Wheels and not much seems to have changed either except for the fact that I’m now looking at it from the eyes of an adult. The font looks the same (quite retro) and each piece is individually wrapped. In what is probably an attempt to bring us back to our Wagon Wheel roots, the company makes it a point of saying the product is “original.” Which is true, because that’s exactly how I remember them.

Yet what hit me the most on the package was the five word line printed directly below the product name “Ideal snack for the lunchbox.” The image right next to it features a yellow lunchbox with a Wagon Wheel and wrapper sitting directly outside of it.

What’s even more intriguing is that I wrote most of this post BEFORE I even took a look at the packaging. Dare Foods totally nailed it. As a consumer, you can’t get any closer to a brand experience than that.

In a world cluttered with competing messages, to me that’s brand genius. Timelessness, taste, experience and meaning make this one brand story that’s destined to be around for a long, long time.

Wagon Wheels






Wraps...Schmaps..Just Give Me A Good Old Fashioned Hamburger!!!

180pxburginWhy is it that, in spite of all the hype for nutritional foods in fast food advertising..that I still crave a good old fashioned hamburger?

Recently we took a road trip to attend an out of town funeral. Tradition dictates that we stop at the numerous "truck stops" along the way to grab some dinner and/or a coffee and donut. The stops offer lots of choice in fast food fare and most of the biggest names in fast food are there. Once you enter the stop, you're bombarded with signs advertising the latest and greatest in nutritional food fare - wraps, yogurts, salads, low cal this...low cal that.

In spite of all this choice, why is it that 99% of the time I always seem to walk away with a hamburger and fries? My body would be happier with the salad..but there's something about the taste of a hamburger and fries on the road that's irresistible. Funny thing is...we don't eat a lot of this stuff at home. So what is it about road trips that makes me want to eat junk food?

Here's what I think:

1) The food represents a sort of greasy comfort food - something that reminds me of summertime BBQ's and weekends at the cottage. I want to relive the story and emotions the burger represents

2) The experience of a road trip implies adventure and by eating a greasy burger and fries, I'm reliving a small part of the rebel in me by chowing down on something that isn't normally part of my daily diet. It's as if I'm saying "to heck with all this advertising"...I'm going to eat what I want!

3) A road trip means "away from home" and this implies living by a different set of rules

So...what do you do differently on road trips that you wouldn't normally do at home? Do you follow nutritional guidelines when away..or do you adopt a sense of careless abandon, crank up the tunes, and live life to the fullest?

Chow down everyone!

"Lights, Camera, Action!" - How Advertisers Use Movies to Sell Experience

Oscar_ceremony_posters_80_anniversaIn this month's issue of CAA magazine (Canadian Automobile Association), there's an ad for the association's Battery Assist program that features a photo of an old "Motel" sign sitting above the roof of a rather withered and ageing motel. The sign bears a resemblance to the type of motel one might see in a movie like Psycho or some other Hollywood thriller.

What's unique about this ad is the advertisers ability to put us in the picture through effective use of words and visuals. Most people can identify with the story in the ad through their experience and interaction with characters in movies. The copy and visuals serve to bring us closer into the experience, and as a result we remember the ad through our interaction with it.

The copy (resembling handwriting on a postcard) reads: "Ever feel like you're living in a movie? Picture this: The oldest, weirdest motel you've ever seen, and us, out front with a dead battery. For my part, I didn't know what we'd do. Then, the leading man at reception called CAA Battery Assist for us. Nice. They installed a replacement on the spot. Ready to go, we drove off in a cloud of dust while the motel man waved goodbye. Just like a scene from some crazy movie."

What is it about the movies that we find so engaging? Why is it we can identify with the plight faced by characters in a movie? Why is it we're so eager to forget our troubles for a while and lose ourselves in the experience?

Advertisers have been quick to capitalize on storytelling elements to sell products. The ads we remember the most are those that relate to us on a "human" level. We're drawn in by people who experience emotion, as we can identify the plight of those people by comparing their situation to our own. Their challenges become our own, as we're drawn into the 'mini-plot' or core emotion found in the ad. The challenges faced by characters in the movies become the same challenges faced by all of humanity.

Advertisers who have effectively used movies or elements found in movies (ie. storytelling) to sell products include:

  • BMW Mini (mini-films placed on web)
  • Oldsmobile (to advertise their "Silhouette" minivan - copy reads "Go places you've never been before...Movies have taken us places beyond our imagination. Now you can take those movies places you never thought possible with the Silhouette Premiere - the first minivan with a built-in video entertainment system")
  • Max Factor (described the story of Max Factor and how he created the make-up industry by focusing on glamour in Hollywood - tagline read "Max Factor - the man who made up Hollywood")
  • Tim Horton's - frequently uses stories that cater to viewers emotions (ie. the hockey Dad who shows up at his son's hockey game later in life)
  • Budweiser - "Hank's" attempts to become a Budweiser superhorse to the tune of Rocky in the Superbowl ad

Where else do you see movies (or elements found in moviemaking) used in advertising? Do you find it's an effective way to sell product? Why or why not? Are there certain products where the use of movies or moviemaking elements are more effective?

Ritter Sport Chocolate "Dares Us to Be Square"

Schoko_homeWhile enjoying Toronto's all-night outdoor art extravaganza "Nuit Blanche" this weekend, we were happy to see that one of the "exhibits" involved heavy doses of chocolate. The happy incident occurred in Toronto's trendy Yorkville area where we were literally stopped in our tracks by the words..."What's your colour?"

The question was a tie-in to a new promotion for Ritter Sport chocolate where participants are given a card asking "What kind of Ritter Sport Friend are you?" The response to the given scenario determines which colour of chocolate would be best suited to you (the scenario asks how you would react to a friend's decision to offer you a mood-boosting Ritter Sport chocolate bar).

I immediate chose the "yellow" response to the scenario (which was to grab it out of your friend's hand immediately to enjoy the treat!) and was subsequently offered several decadent samples of Ritter Sport chocolate wrapped in yellow packaging. Apparently, my choice of yellow means that I am a playful friend - always looking for a good time (can't argue with that one!)

On an evening that was so full of noise and interactive exhibits, the Ritter Sport promo found a way to stand out from the clutter. It was amazing to see the pure joy of the chocolate participants as they crammed the chocolate squares into their mouths!

This type of engaging promotion is in line with Ritter Sport's brand profile as it defines itself as the "chocolate concept with a difference." Ritter Sport realizes that innovation is a top-priority for brand success to continue. Participants are encouraged to learn more about the product by clicking onto www.rittersportfriends.com.

As for me, I'm sold. I enjoyed Ritter Sport before, but now when I make my purchase, I wonder what my choice says about my mood and personality that day. Ritter Sport has managed to personalize the brand experience, and that's not an easy thing to do in the marketing world.

What colour are you today?

Time IS the New Experience

Wc_l1_3A recent Toronto Star article suggested that the latest status symbol of the upper middle class is not stuff, but people. For those living a harried lifestyle who are able to afford it, hiring people to do those pesky day to day chores can free up a lot of time to do other things.

As financial planner Sylvia Sarkus says, "I am buying my sanity." The idea of having "staff" to do work previously done by households is nothing new. The rich and well-to-do have always been able to afford it. For those with more modest means, the increased competitive environment means people are working longer hours to make ends meet. Free time becomes a luxury that can be bought, for a price. The cost of relaxation takes on a value indicative of this faster paced lifestyle.

According to sociologist Stephen Katz, a Professor at Trent University in Peterborough, "the new status symbols are time and experiences."

I'm wondering if people who work in "Concierge Services" could now be called "time brokers." Perhaps time will become a commodity - something to be traded as people buy "shares" in it.

Is Time the new experience? How does our perception of time vary in 2007, as opposed to how we saw it 30 or 40 years ago?